The second is a frustration with my in-laws. We spend Thanksgiving at their house. Thanksgiving was alright, but I wish, that Joel's family would remember that I'm allergic to walnuts. I really wish they wouldn't bake with walnuts when I'm around, but I'd settle for being told which food dishes I can't eat. But Joel's mom still doesn't remember that I'm allergic. We've been married for three years, we dated for three years before that, and the entire time I've been allergic to walnuts and she still doesn't remember. We see them several times a year. Joel almost didn't believe me when I told him that his mom didn't remember (I asked her which nuts were in the bread, and she said 'oh, I forgot you're allergic to walnuts,' and I wanted to say something snarky because yes, I still am, nothing has changed). I'm afraid that someone is going to put walnuts in something and not tell me and I'll forget to ask (I always ask if there are visible nuts, but sometimes they aren't visible). I keep trying to remind myself to ask if there are walnuts in the food every single damn time we are there.
In case you were wondering, this feels the opposite of welcoming. Thank goodness my allergy isn't too severe.
The Q&A, sitting in the front row, I found slightly surreal, and just amazing.
And here we go again. I think this way of putting it is a little odd, because I'm playing an elf, but an elf with enough moral sense to not want to put up with racism. Characters not of the race being discriminated against may still have a problem with racism. Anyway, I posted something to the effect that I'm playing an idealistic elf and there would be significant friction if a character was racist. I thought it was a good idea to post it, and felt vaguely responsible to object since I'm the one who has an issue with it, even though I don't really want to deal with it (and completely fail to understand the draw of playing a racist character).
Now somehow this has turned into a discussion of racism in Shadowrun, and whether it is ok to have a racist character. This is a discussion I really don't want to have, but am having anyway because it seems important. Bah.
My view is that RPGs can be a totally valid way to explore racism, and, if handled well, there isn't a problem with having a character who is racist. Having said that, racism falls under 'things I don't want to deal with in an RPG because it makes things not fun because there is enough of it in the real world' along with misogyny, misandry, violence against kittens, and such.
*I wanted to (snarkily) post in response: 'I'm thinking of playing a character that is a misandrist. Is anyone playing a male character?' which I think is amusing because our group nearly exclusively plays male characters.
( Arkham Horror House Rules )
(Feel free to skip this if you're not as interested in the details of the various Stargate RPG options.)
When I started looking at various systems to play a Stargate RPG in, I wanted something that would capture the feel of the game, give various options for playable characters (including Jaffa and Tok'ra), and be a simple system. I prefer a system that is light on rules, but heavy on options (I liked the Star Wars d6 system which is pretty fast paced but has many race and skill options, but didn't care for Numenera which is fast paced but very limiting when it comes to character options).
I took a look at the Stargate d6 system. This system has a lot of potential, and was created based on the Star Wars system. It also wasn't finished. I started tweaking (with Joel's help), but it seemed like a ridiculous amount of house rules, as the system has some weird issues with skills, and also lacks stats for creating Jaffa or Tok'ra playable characters.
So, I decided to take a look at other options. I stumbled across a fan made conversion for Savage Worlds, which looked promising. I also took a look at the official d20 system, and was less than impressed. It sounds like the d20 system is crunchier than I prefer for RPGs, has some consistency issues, and was designed by someone who didn't know that much about Stargate. The Jaffa and Tok'ra options are also not that interesting.
At the moment, I think I'm sold on the Savage Worlds conversion. I don't love the system, but it seems decent enough. Savage Worlds is designed to be a fast system, light on the rules, and to be an open ended system (it doesn't have a built in setting), which makes it great for tweaking. Further, I'm impressed with the conversion. It seems elegant and really makes the Jaffa and Tok'ra stand apart from the human options, giving them specific advantages and disadvantages in a way that harmonizes well with the feel of the show (instead of some weird ideas involving split personalities and dual character sheets).
We'll see what happens with this. If I'm still interested, I could see running a campaign after Joel finishes his Shadowrun campaign.
The next RPG we'll be playing is Shadowrun (which Joel will be running). In case you don't know all the RPGs by name (I certainly don't), Shadowrun is a futuristic cyperpunk RPG (a d6 system, for those of you who care about such things), that also includes fantasy elements such as magic, mages, trolls, elves, dwarves, and the like.
One of the other players is creating a dwarf. This dwarf will have a prejudice against elves. I'm guessing that he wants to borrow from LOTR, but I feel a little uncomfortable with this. I think it has the potential to sound a lot like racism (with the dwarf making comments about how all elves are liars or some such). I may just be overly sensitive because I recently read The Goblin Emperor, in which Katharine Addison uses goblins and elves to show racism in a less threatening way than dealing with it directly.
My concern as a player is this: what do I do if the dwarf makes a comment against elves? My character is a decent sort of person who also happens to be an elf, and she wouldn't stand for that sort of thing. But I also don't want to make a big deal out of this if I am being overly sensitive. And if it is a valid issue, I want to bring it up now, when we are in character creation, rather than being confrontational when playing.
I do believe that stories, including RPGs, can be a good way to explore questions of prejudice, including sexism and racism. But I also prefer my gaming to be lighthearted, and mostly about shooting stormtroopers or being inventive with explosives.
I am currently contemplating GMing a short Stargate SG-1 episode (set sometime during the first few seasons, so as to avoid major spoilers) because I'm crazy like that. Basically, I have an idea that I want to do something with.
I should be writing stories, but that hasn't been happening, so maybe plotting out a mission will help me start feeling creative again.
It is about finding gammas, who are people with an anomaly in their brains. No one is sure what the anomaly is, but it feeds on pain, and causes the gamma to be unusually strong and eat a ridiculous amount. It manifests in different ways, according to the person's mythology, what they believe about the world, and shows up as hexes or seeing patterns or controlling lightning or any number of things. A lot of gammas look an awful lot like serial killers.
It ripped my heartstrings out. Three times. In the best way possible.
If you are interested in trying it, I suggest starting with Dexterity. It doesn't have major spoilers, is early in the first season, and is quite good. (I thought the first episode was rather a slow start.) So, try Dexterity, but be warned that you may suddenly find yourself reading just one more story, and then will find that you have somehow read them all.**
Trigger warnings: There is some language. There is just about every type of nasty thing that can happen, does, but it mostly happens off screen and is discussed by the agents. But just to warn you, Shadow Unit does involve sexual assault, rape, torture, child abuse, and various forms of nasty murder of people and the family dog. I would recommend skipping Episode 1.04 (A Handful of Dust) if you (like me) generally have a low tolerance for dark, because it involves horrible things from the perspective of the person doing them. It does have events that are later referenced, but I don't think there's anything major.
I do hope that I can addict someone else to it, so that I can have someone else to fangirl about it with. That is my ulterior motive.
*I discovered it because Sarah Monette is involved, and I'm reading all her short stories because I liked Goblin Emperor so much (she wrote it under the pen name Katharine Addison). I galloped through it all in a very short time.
**Start with season one, then continue to season two, etc. The website is slightly odd in how it is set up. There are also additional deleted scenes and such. <edit> I would strongly recommend reading the additional scenes after each season. They aren't what I would consider deleted scenes in a movie sense; scenes that were cut to make the story flow better. They read more like storylets or short stories that didn't fit the five act structure. They also introduce some characters who show up later, and continue character development. In the interest of avoiding spoilers, I would suggest after each season reading the scenes for that season and after that season (i.e. after finishing season one, continue to the deleted scenes for season one and then the deleted scenes for after season one before moving on to season two).
Looking and applying for jobs feels like work. Writing feels like work, and it is hard to make myself find the time in the midst of dentist appointments and telling people Why I Am Awesome and You Should Hire Me.
But speaking of stories, I had a dream the other night that would lend itself to a story very well. I dreamt that I was a member of a team that was trying to prevent the apocalypse. We were doing this by sending certain necessary objects through portals. This created alternate universes (one where we received the object where we needed it, and one where we didn't). But here is the part that is a good seed for a story. We realized that we were in one of the alternate universes, which meant that we couldn't win because we couldn't gather all the objects. But we pushed through to get this last object to a portal so that the original us might be able to win their war and stop the apocalypse.
If anyone would like to take the story idea and do something with it, please do. I doubt I will, since I don't believe in the possibility of alternate universes created by our choices/major historic events as a real thin.
This is never easy, and Percy is my cat of
The Steven Moffat seasons have some major flaws, two of which I will address. But they also have some strengths that were lacking in the Russell T. Davies seasons.
There are two flaws in Steven Moffat's writing that seem to be mentioned frequently, and that I agree with.The first is his treatment of women in his writing. Much virtual ink has been spent on this topic. This is something of a subtle flaw, at least to me. I do love River Song, and I am also fond of Amy (although I don't care for Clara). But overall, Clara and Amy seem less well rounded than Rose or Donna. Rose and Donna are extraordinary because they are ordinary, and while the Doctor is very important to them, their lives don't revolve around him in the same way as that of Amy and Clara. Second, Moffat doesn't seem as good at plotting out season long story arcs. He throws in occasional moments (the Doctor telling Amy to remember in the forest among the Weeping Angels), but I don't think we see anything that packs as much of a punch as Bad Wolf, for instance.
But Steven Moffat has two great strengths that I think the Russell T. Davies seasons were, for the most part, lacking. First, Moffat writes really good season finales. Since Moffat took over, I have started looking forward to the season finales. With Davies, I mostly dreaded the finales, because they seemed to be a generally weak ending to a lot of buildup (for the best example, look at the three part season finale with the Master, which started out great but turned into a horrible train wreck of a finale). Second, Moffat writes amazing villains. With Davies, I'd grown tired of the over-liberal use of villains from original Who. I would wonder, will this season contain Cybermen, Daleks, or both? They generally weren't scary. But Moffat has given us thrilling villains, like the Silence and the Weeping Angels.
I suspect that some of my gentle readers will disagree, but I think that the Rusell T. Davies seasons were *not* some golden age of Dr. Who. But I also don't think that Steven Moffat ushered in a golden age, either. I don't like Clara, but I also didn't like Martha. I think Vampires of Venice is a weak episode, but I also wince at Love and Monsters (featuring the Abzorbalorf) and the aforementioned finale with the Master. Dr. Who has always had its flaws, and will continue to have its flaws, and I still love it.
One of my friends requesting book recommendations. Now, since I could give a very long list of book recommendations, I asked what genres, and she said urban fantasy and space opera. Here, then, are my recommendations if you want some excellent urban fantasy or space opera.
What I mean by space opera is if you took a really good action/adventure movie, and the setting happened to be space. Think of the novel equivalent of Star Wars or Indiana Jones in space.
Trading in Danger (the first book in Vatta's War) - Elizabeth Moon - Ky Vatta is kicked out of the space military, starts trying to be a space merchant, has adventures, and also happen to be a woman. Some of the best space opera I've read. The Serrano Legacy series is also quite good.
The Human Division - John Scalzi - More excellent space opera, but this time centered around diplomats and told in a series of linked short stories, some serious, some amusing.
I am loosely defining urban fantasy as fantasy that happens in a modern, urban setting.
Little (Grrl) Lost - Charles DeLint - DeLint somehow manages to pull together all kinds of disparate elements and mythologies and make it work. Also, all of his novels have a wonderfully rich and complex backstory that is only hinted at.
Spiral Hunt - Margaret Ronald - I was blown away when I read this trilogy, and wish she'd written more. The author has very clear ideas about what her fantasy is (instead of throwing everything in), and it is Celtic with a decent dose of literary theory. I was also pleased to find that instead of a stock love triangle, it is about people trying to figure things out. The protagonist is a woman who freelances on the side as a private detective.
Discount Armageddon - Seanin McGuire - (the first Incryptid novel) This takes place in New York and presumes that all the urban legends of things like chupacabras and Bigfoot and such are true, and that they are living normal lives (except for that pesky secret order that tries to kill them). It also features the Aeslin mice, a group of intelligent mice that have their own rituals and wear squirrel skulls and say things like "Hail the taking out of the trash!" and are completely adorable. (Small warning that the author works as a waitress in a strip club, if that would bother you.)
(Joel also suggested Dresden, but I've heard such problematic things about it (from Charis and Sharon, who have excellent taste), and I've never been able to get into it myself, that I have trouble recommending it, and probably won't in the future.)
Here are the "modern" books that I picked as a sampler of science fiction and fantasy. I thought of it as one of those cheese plates or chocolate boxes. It has a little of everything, and I tried to hit all the big notes, even those that aren't to my taste (some people like coconut or nuts, and even though Neil Gaiman isn't to my taste, he is still one of the big tastes in fantasy). I wasn't trying to be exhaustive (this has a startling lack of Patricia Wrede, for instance). I thought I'd post this here, in the hopes that someone might find or book, or that you, dear reader, could point out any glaring oversights.
Since this was a sampler, I tried to pick each of a sort of book.
I, Robot - Issaac Asimov - This is a clever set of stories that depend on the three laws that Asimov created to define the behavior of robots. Much of modern science fiction builds or interacts with Asimov's conception of robots.
Fahrenheit 451 - Ray Bradbury - It's hard to know where to start with Bradbury. I think his work is pretty consistent, though, so if you like one, you're likely to like most. I've suggested Fahrenheit 451 because it is one of the best known, and because I enjoyed it the last time I read it.
A Wizard of Earthsea - Ursula LeGuin - LeGuin is one of the big names in science fiction, and quite deservedly. This is about names and how they interact with the thing that is named, and is set on various islands.
A Wrinkle in Time - Madeleine L'Engle - Many of my friends like this book, and although it has never quite clicked for me, I still think it worth reading, for Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and Mrs. Which.
The Abhorsen Trilogy (beginning with Sabriel) - Garth Nix - I reread these quite often. Garth Nix does everything well: characters, description, plot, action, and worldbuilding. Although this trilogy isn't about vampires, it pairs well with Dracula. Both are about the fight of light and law against dark and death.
Alphabet of Thorn - Patricia McKillip - I had a hard time choosing which book of McKillip to suggest, because I like so much of her work. She writes lovely fantasy that draws heavily from fairy tale imagery.
Coraline - Neil Gaiman - I'm not sure the best place to start with Gaiman. So many of my friends adore him that I thought I should include Coraline. Quirky and a bit dark. It is also a wonderful stop-motion film. (Or, you might prefer to try the BBC radio play of Neverwhere, which I have and is wonderful.)
Trading in Danger (the first book in the Vatta's War series) - Elizabeth Moon - If you want to try space opera, start here. Action, adventure, space pirates, and saving the galaxy.
The Human Division - John Scalzi - more excellent space opera, but this time centered around diplomats and told in a series of linked short stories.
Howl’s Moving Castle - Diana Wynne Jones - A moving castle, an eldest daughter who sets out to seek her fortune, transformations, and a clever use of a John Donne poem.
Tam Lin - Pamela Dean - a novel length re-telling of Tam Lin in a modern-ish college setting.
Beauty - Robin McKinley - a novel length re-telling of Beauty and the Beast in a fantasy setting.
Restoration of Faith (short story available here) - Jim Butcher - Joel knows about Dresden, and as I've yet to read the series, I included his suggestion. Try Dresden if you want occasionally humorous modern fantasy centered around a private detective. From what I've heard, the series improves quite a bit after the first couple of books.
Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell - Suzanah Clarke - Victorian England, the Napoleonic Wars, the return of magic, and the Raven King. Not to mention wonderful footnotes that fly off on tangents to tell stories of their own.
the Harry Potter series - J.K. Rowling - The best is Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, but it is the fifth book and you really have to start at the beginning and read the entire series. Rowling writes characters very well, and is concerned with the disenfranchised.
Here included with Amazon links.
For the most part, these are books that are big in the science fiction and fantasy genre, but also worth reading in their own right. (For instance, I have left Jules Verne off the list because, while he is influential, I think he is also generally dull.)
A Christmas Carol - Charles Dickens - I'm not sure if this counts, but it has ghosts, and is one of Dicken's better works, so I've put it on the list.
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde - Robert Louis Stevenson - Like many books on the list, this comes up quite a lot in later books. The ideas are referenced, the characters are referenced, and it begins a discussion.
Frankenstein - Mary Shelley - This is the quintessential "science creates a monster" novel.
Dracula - Bram Stoker - Vampire stories were around before Dracula, but this is really The Vampire Novel. Everything that follows that has to due with vampires (from Buffy to Twilight) interacts with Dracula in some way. Plus, it's just brilliant. A bit of a slow start, but atmospheric, creepy, and featuring amazing characters like Mina and Van Helsing.
The Princess and the Goblin - George MacDonald - This is a lovely book that draws from fairy tales written by a wise Scottish preacher. I love all of George MacDonald's fantasy, but this is really the best place to start.
The Charwoman’s Shadow or The King of Elfland’s Daughter - Lord Dunsany - Lord Dunsany is a classic in the fantasy genre, and for very good cause. His use of language is brilliant (he is fond of words like "gloaming") and his imagery is beautiful.
The Invisible Man - H.G. Wells - Not only is H.G. Wells one of the most famous early writers of science fiction, he remains quite readable, because he is interested in using futuristic science to explore what it means to be human. You can start with just about any of his novels. I picked The Invisible Man because I liked it.
The Sword in the Stone - T.H. White - I am a huge fan of King Arthur, and T.H. White presents Arthur in a more approachable way. It includes Robin Hood, wyvverns, griffins, Merlin, and the Fair Folk, and one of the most amusing jousts I've read.
The Chronicles of Narnia - C.S. Lewis - Anything by the Inklings deserves to be on this list. Narnia is often underestimated, but Lewis manages to do something with Narnia that is almost unique when he created Aslan. I think everyone should start with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.
The Lord of the Rings - J.R.R. Tolkien - Wonderfully written, with what remains some of the best, most thorough worldbuilding in fantasy, Tolkien constructed a story and world that is infused with Christian ideas. He also began a trend of epic fantasy that double as bricks or doorstops.
But I'm going to claim the title of writer for myself. I am a writer because it is what I am, but also because it is what I'm striving to be. Last year, for a bit, I tried to write for an hour a week. That isn't much, but it was still an effort because I was spending so much emotional and mental energy on job search (a truly heartbreaking task). I wasn't very good at keeping it up. I'm going to try again this year, anyway. After all, I did manage to write a few stories last year, some of them rather decent.
I am also going to work on editing some of my short stories. There is one in particular that I have a few markets in mind for. (I planned on sending it out by last July, but, well, work was insane and then I was sick, and then I was recovering from being sick, and that seems to very neatly sum up my year.) As I keep telling myself, if I can handle being rejected for so many jobs, I can surely handle being rejected for my stories (and I least I have the consolation that story markets tell you that you are rejected, instead of just never getting back to you).
I am going to ignore those people who mean well, but who say that you are only a writer if you are committed to writing. If you write every day, or every week, or always set aside the time for it. I am going to set aside time, but I am also going to recognize that life gets in the way, and that I won't currently prioritize writing that highly. But I am a writer.